To prepare myself for the 2014 major league baseball season, I’ve been watching some old baseball movies that have been running on cable TV. The most enjoyable so far has been a little comedy-romance confection from 1949 called “It Happens Every Spring.”
This movie makes a one-of-a-kind impact before it even starts: It’s the only known comedy-romance with a baseball-related plot that opens with a quote from Albert Einstein, who I believe was an outstanding centerfielder for the Swiss Patent Office softball team back in the early 1900s.
The quote, from Einstein’s book “Evolution of Physics,” reads “The results of scientific research very often force a change in the philosophical view of problems which extend beyond the restricted domain of science itself.”
I looked this up on the Internet, and sure enough, it’s a real Einstein quote. But there’s more to it, because Einstein continued by saying “This fact may someday comfort fans of a baseball team – let’s say, hypothetically, the Chicago Cubs – that goes 105 years without winning a championship.”
The plot of “It Happens Every Spring” revolves around a college professor, played by Ray Milland, who oversees a laboratory accident that produces a potion that repels wood. He’s a big baseball fan, and so he secretly tests the potion by rubbing it on a baseball. Sure enough, no bat can make contact with a ball dipped in the elixir.
Milland immediately visits Lowell, Indiana, where he rubs the stuff all over the bats that I will eventually use throughout my childhood sandlot-baseball career.
Next, he ups and leaves his university to go pitch for his favorite big league team, St. Louis, in exuberant hopes of taking them to the championship. Oh, and while 1949 was supposedly a more innocent time than we live in today, Milland also held exuberant hopes of making exuberant amounts of money.